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Nuclear Disarmament — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:19 pm on 24th January 2013.

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Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 4:19 pm, 24th January 2013

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply and I thank most warmly all those who have taken part in the debate. Anyone coming here and listening would have realised that this House gives the lie to the suggestion that we are not grown-up enough to be able to take part in this debate. The quality, content and understanding in what has been said show me conclusively why it is so important that the expertise in this House is deployed during this consideration of one of the most important questions that we face. It is clear that everyone in this House is committed to the cause of multilateral nuclear disarmament. I did not hear anyone suggest that the first thing to do was just to wipe all nuclear weapons off the map and take a unilateralist line. That is not practical politics and it is not sensible.

However, I was glad that a number of issues were raised during the course of the debate, which covered many points that are concerned with the review of alternatives to Trident as well as with the current position. For example, I am glad that the issue of continuous at-sea deployment was questioned, which is not just a question of practicality but also must be included in any question of the cost and development of the future weapon, quite apart from its efficacy. I am glad that the possibility of more precision weapons was represented. I am also glad that the question of cost came up, because in this connection I have always been a follower of the advice given to me by my late master, Field Marshal Lord Carver, that there are two definitions of affordability. One is, "Can you afford it?", and the other is, "Can you afford to give up what you've got to give up to afford it?". That has extreme relevance in this situation when we are considering what we need to conduct ourselves in today's world rather than the Cold War world, compared with what we have to spend on the Trident replacement.

I was particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord King, for reminding us of why we have our seat at the table and what is actually needed to have a seat at the top table tomorrow. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for correcting me. I have to admit that I should have not read the coalition mid-term agreement, and I am very sorry that I got the wrong Alexander. I will apologise personally. I shall remember the connection with the Maginot line with considerable interest.

I think that I will be reflecting the mood of the House if I conclude by paying tribute to my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall, whose last speech was memorable for the verve and clarity to which I referred at the start. We are going to miss him, and his contribution was tremendous. I know that his influence will live on.

As I say, I am grateful for what I have found an enormously interesting, instructive and, as I hope the Minister will agree, very valuable debate. I hope that she will follow this up by allowing us to have a further debate, particularly when the alternative review is published.

Motion agreed.